I see myself on the FaceTime call: tired, pale, and a little balder than I like to admit. Slumped in my desk chair—the chair I lugged into this studio apartment; the chair where I work and masturbate and eat lunch and occasionally fall asleep. Now, I also use it for talking to my sons on Sundays and Wednesdays (or Thursdays, depending on their soccer schedules). I brush my hair to the side to better cover my scalp. A few flakes of dandruff flutter down. The call fails and I try again, but it’s immediately canceled.
Her message lights up my phone: 5 mins.
judge said twice a week minimum, I text back.
K, she responds.
I rub my forehead and run my hand through my hair. A few more flakes fall gently onto my keyboard and the arms of my desk chair, standing out against the black like snowflakes. I do it again. I run both of my hands back and forth through my hair, and the flakes start to collect in piles. Before I know it, the piles converge. The dust pile is up to my knees, but I keep going.
Then, I’m down to the bone. My forehead hangs forward and dangles over my eyes. I push it back against my skull and it sticks like a wet page. It starts to itch, so I peel the rest of my skin away like strips of paint. I pull off the last bit of flesh from the pinkie toe of my left foot and wiggle my toe bones. No point pretending.
The dust quivers as my phone starts to ring. I dive down into the dead, dry flakes, following the sound. What if I just stayed down here? Would it be ruled a suicide: he drowned in his own skin?
But I retrieve my phone and return to the surface. It starts ringing again, but it doesn’t recognize my skull face to unlock and my finger isn’t able to use the touchpad to answer the call. The bony tip just taps against the screen and leaves slick streaks on the surface. I lie on the bed, holding the phone above me and watch it ring and ring.
A message pops up: u need to get urself together 4 ur kids.
I toss the phone onto the bed and it disappears into the dust, a small puff rising silently upward.
W.A. Hawkins is a writer from South Louisiana. You can find his work in No Contact, The Daily Drunk, Scalawag Magazine, Bayou Brief, and others.